“Ask a Priest: How Can I Use Musical Talent for God’s Glory … and Not Mine?”

Q: I’m a composer of music in various genres (classical, contemporary, popular, etc.), and commercially I have been fairly successful, but not quite enough to make a living out of it. Therefore, I must now get some other job and keep writing music only in my spare time. I’m fine with that, but I struggle with a dilemma: Should I share (not sell) my future works with other people, or simply compose for the glory of God, without even presenting it to anyone? “Sharing is caring,” they say, but sharing is more often a way to glorify yourself, to get “likes” and boost your ego. I am deeply grateful for this gift of being able to write music, but I cannot find the proper balance between trying to impress people, or simply rejoicing in the beauty of the melodies and harmonies that come out, as a matter strictly between myself and God. How will I know my motives? Is sharing your own works really caring, or is it mere pride? Or would hiding my talent be a sin even worse? – N.E.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: If you have a gift for music, it is meant to be used for the benefit of other people. Talents are not meant to be buried. Jesus had stern words for those who fail to use their talents (see Matthew 25:24-30).

The key thing, though, is to share the fruits of your work for the right reason: the glory of God.

Now, many of us do things with less than perfect motives. Sometimes we subtly seek our own glory, as you mention. (In this regard, you may find C.S. Lewis’ spiritual classic, The Screwtape Letters, a fruitful read as you seek to grow in humility — especially Chapter 14.)

The solution here is to purify your motives as best you can. How can you do that? A few suggestions might help.

First, whenever someone compliments you, refer the compliment to Our Lord. Say something like “The Holy Spirit helped me” or “Let’s pray that the music brings people closer to Jesus.” And, of course, mean it.

Second, write music anonymously if you can. No one but God needs to know where the music came from. There might be lots of ways to share your music. You might even offer to write music for special events, such as Church gatherings, or even for websites that promote evangelization.

One more hint: Include a prayer of gratitude to God each day in your schedule, and the Holy Spirit for the grace to do everything for the glory of the Almighty. That would be music to Our Lord’s ears.

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